Monday, April 30, 2007

And we're back

First post, of course, needs to be a smartass one.

Here's something I got in my email inbox:

Now, if you want some valuable information maybe you should read this. At three minutes and four seconds after 2 AM on the 6th of May this year, the time and date will be02:03:04 05/06/07.This will never happen again IN MY LIFETIME, nor in YOURS.Just thought you should know this!

Fair enough. But to this the "deep thinker" in me replies:

Look at your watch. It is now 09:57:12 04/30/07 (or whatever the case may be for you). This moment, too, only happens once in your lifetime. Take a breath. This breat only happens once in your lifetime. Have a conversation. This conversation will only happen once in a lifetime. Kiss someone. This kiss... might get you arrested. This arrest will only happen once in a lifetime.

I think you get the point. How to "live" this knowledge is a different matter altogether.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Snicker, snicker

One more.
If you've got eight and a half minutes, you can do worse than
watch this (Robert Pinsky, Sean Penn, Stephen Colbert in the Meta-free-phor-all).
Now I'm gone. Have fun.

All right

That might have been it for the week (See Madge Monday for details).
Feel free to check out the links or older posts while I'm out. Or go out and enjoy Spring.
You're supped to turn away from the computer screen every half hour anyway. (I read that somewhere. Like the eight - no, it's six - no it's ten - glasses of liquids i should consume a day - caffeinated beverages and alcohol don't count, this random knowledge is one of those parental admonishment rumors I can neither trace nor verify. But it sounds like good advice, i.e., advice I can feel guilty about for heeding.)

Coco Tuesday

The manipulator let his colors show in a spectacular way tonight.
He was about to brush his teeth when he asked for a glass of milk. I said okay. He realized that the girls were folding laundry and talking and having a good time, so he went to them and said "I help Mommy" to me. I said okay. Next thing I hear is Julie's voice. "Coco. Stop jumping on the bed. You're messing up the piles." "Okay. Sorry, Mommy." Pause. "Coco! I told you to stop jumping on the bed." Then it struck me; he'd been yanking my chain again. I stomped back to the bedroom. "Coco! You said you wanted to help Mommy. You're not helping Mommy at all." He made his crumpled-injured face and hugged Julie tightly around the neck. Then, mid-hug, he turned his face to me, smiled and stuck out his tongue.

I had to go into the bathroom to keep him from noticing how hard it made me laugh.

Madge Monday

Madge's school is having a "Turn off the TV" week, which includes no computers. It's really a "for god's sake, let something other than pixels entertain you for a while, maybe even interact with your parents in a non-demanding way" week. Or "let's see how you survive this torture without breaking your parents' wallets from all the new toys you'll need to be distracted" week.
Of course Madge insists that I play by the rules, too, which means that I'm not allowed to use the computer this week. I said while she's awake, but she wants stricter adherence. We'll see. So I'm posting this Monday in advance. There's no new WaitWait this week, so it might actually work, though I still need to communicate, right?
Only email, maybe.
The occasional blog entry if something really funny happens.
But that's it.

Mental note

No matter how much experience your gaydar has accumulated in seven years' of San Francisco, no matter how stereotypically your students act (love of musicals in boys, love of mechanics in girls), it is not your job to out them, especially here in New York, where people are surprisingly repressed about these matters.

This is my weekly Sunday mantra before I teach. Because, let me tell you, it can be difficult.


A friend of mine went to Paris (in April, no less, the weenie) and took this remarkable picture.
Notice the symmetry in the buildings juxtaposed with the jaunty angles of the photograph and the way the color of the roof approaches the sky?
Was there anything else?
And the only thing the newspapers here talked about that week was Imus.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Madge's new style

New details and new themes emerge in Madge's drawings. The dragon bowled me over. The duck is pretty awesome, too. I don't know where they're coming from, but they're a welcome change from fairies and mermaids, if you ask me (which you don't, I know).

Johnson Fables

No. 7 (Tuesday, 10 April 1750)

“Other things may be seized by might, or purchased with money, but knowledge is to be gained only by study, and study to be prosecuted only in retirement.”

Retiree: Your honor, let it please the court that Study has continually wasted my time and resulted in no fruit.
Study: Objection. Relevance?
Retiree: I’ll tell you the relevance, you piece of…
Judge: Careful, or I’ll hold you in contempt.
Study: See what happens when you ignore me?
Retiree: Oh, quit it. Look at the Judge. Your Honor, may I ask you some questions?
Judge: I’m not sure how…
Retiree: Did study get you your position on the Bench?
Judge: Well, to pass the bar I had to do a little studying in my day.
Retiree: But to become an elected Judge, did you study in solitude? Or did it come your way by bargaining and compromise?
Study: This isn’t about him.
Retiree: No, you’re right, it’s about you and how little you’ve done for me.
Study: Perhaps you’re looking at it the wrong way. Maybe you should have done more for me and then something would have fallen into place for you.
Retiree: You mean…? Oh. But isn’t it a bit late for me to gain Knowledge now? In this way?
Study: Knowledge is always gained too late.
Retiree: Your Honor, I rest my case. It is not the prosecution of Study, but the occurrence of Experience that imparts Knowledge.
[Study quietly steals away]

Getting along

Yesterday was an all-round grumpy day.

Sass, attitude, and snappiness. And the kids weren't behaving too well, either.

So these pictures (taken the day before) are for me, to remind me that we do have fun together.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

worn out

I need new jeans.
to keep up with fads,
because Gap-pant knees
keep up with dads.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

junk mail folder

Julie's work occasionally moves some of my emails to her into the company's junk mail folder.
I decided to run some informal tests and so far it seems that her company deems phrases like "come home," "you work too hard," and "you need a raise" obscene.
Really. Ask Julie. She's had to retrieve them all from her junk folder.
Please leave comments as to which other phrases I might try.

I think they should go "home" themselves.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Jess loved to draw

This weekend I read Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia (1977). Early in the book (Chapter 2), I found this:

Jess drew the way some people drink whiskey. The peace would start at the top of his muddled brain and seep down through his tired and tensed-up body. Lord, he loved to draw.

Jess(e) is the 10-yr-old protagonist. The story is told from a third-person, single point of view, which means that the “he said” “she did” stuff gets filtered through Jesse’s reactions.
Needless to say, this whiskey-drinking simile is either disturbing or incorrect. But it leads to other possibilities.

Harold rode his bike the way some people have sex. First tentatively, but once he had the hang of it, the training wheels came off and he didn’t care how many shins he skinned or toddlers he accidentally ran over. Lord, he loved riding a bike.

Billy built Legos the way some people gamble. The tingle would start at the base of his spine and soon his fingers itched for those nubby plastic pieces that he’d sacrifice his mother just to get a chance to build again. Lord, he loved to build.

Phoebe dressed her doll the way some people smoke crack. The first time she fastened the Velcro correctly she got an incredible rush to the frontal lobe, and from that point on it was moremoremore until she found herself in a mall parking lot offering sexual favors for a quick hit of new doll clothes. Lord, she loved to dress dolls.

Jess drew the way some people drink whiskey. Shakily. Shouting abuse at others. Wetting his pants. Lord, he loved to draw.

Coco Tuesday

What’s new in Coco-land? Spongebob stocks are down, Spiderman up. We found a Spider-Spud at the toy store yesterday and now he’s fighting it out with Darth Tater and winning. But Coco isn’t quite able to change Peter Parker Potato’s costume so I get to help out a lot. Yay.
Oh, yes, and it’s getting quite difficult to get Coco to take off his Spiderman pjs. Yesterday he waited around for about twenty minutes in the nude for the dryer to be done before he put on his striped pjs.
Once the dryer was done, he changed, of course.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Madge Monday

This weekend Madge didn’t go out of the house even once. I think the vacation took it out of her or something. The rain didn’t help, of course.
Still, it was cute. We merely took turns staying in with the kids. (Coco came with me on a few shopping trips.)

Every once in a while, blogs or emails include things like “ten books that most changed my life” or some such thing. We got a few books on birth order from the library and I think they’re going to change my/our attitude towards dealing with Madge, the first born. (Neither Julie and I are first born, so we think just saying “lighten up” will help. But it appears we might have to be more careful about our approach.) It’s no book in particular that’s doing the trick, just looking at them in general. Interesting stuff. Fun, too, in a glossy-magazine pop-psychology kind of way (lists, tests, advice, wannabe humorous phrasings and slogans, but still).
Of course there’s always the-rock-and-the-hard-place advice. First, they say first-borns are jealous of attention paid to younger siblings. Then, they say that the younger siblings hound them too much and need to be removed from the first-borns, especially when the older friends are over. But how do you do that without paying more attention to the younger siblings?
Which leads me to another influential book, Parenting with Duck Tape.

Headline poem

(Got a little desk job this morning, so I have a little extra time to surf and read.)

Polar Bears:

Russia Tries to Save Polar Bears With Legal Hunt
Controlled hunting aims to cut down on poaching - maybe.
Tax Returns Rise for Immigrants in U.S. Illegally
Exposed to authorized poachers, immigrants establish a paper trail - maybe.

Studen Loan Payments

Sallie Mae (for the international readers: she is - they are - primarily known for student loans in the U.S.) is in the process of being bought out by a couple private investors and two banks.
What'll the new name be? Uncle Fester? Hannibal? Vlad the Impaler? Oprah?
The new payment schedule is more straightforward, though.
For a B.A. - firstborn child.
For a Master's degree - kidney and liver.
Ph.D. - your soul.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Johnson Fables

No. 6 (Saturday, 7 April 1750)

“[T]he fountain of content must spring up in the mind.”

The Explorers of Happiness were stymied. In vain had they sailed the world searching for the Fountain of Content. It seemed that every time they settled somewhere, the Fountain of Content lurked just beyond the horizon, and whenever they were on the road or open sea it called to them from their reminiscences of home.
Finally, they had the felicitous idea of drilling into their crania.
And, Lo! The Land of the Content* is inhabited by people with derricks sticking from their skulls.

*At least the permanent, drooling grin makes the casual observer think so.

A Headline

N.J. Governor Is Critical After Car Crash

Unfortunate. Not only because of the
injuries sustained by Corzine, but because, reading it, one thinks that the accident has changed a formerly accepting disposition.

Madge bonus

A couple nights ago, at bedtime, Madge said she wants to be in Les Miz, as Fantine or Eponine.
Then she said, as any girl part, really, even the mean one who makes Fantine lose her job.
See, she's already willing to make sacrifices.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Holy Bleep!

When the cousins were here, I rode this thing with one of them.
Perfect April weather. A balmy mid-thirties. Snow flurries alternating with a brisk wind and sunshine.
A Nathan's hot dog rolling around my small intestines - not sure which egress to choose.
But, whoa, what a ride. I looked it up, the steepest incline was something like 56 degrees, but I could have sworn it was perpendicular. My camera dropped out of my inside jacket pocket during the ride and had somehow made its way out of its case as well.
If you come here, you gotta ride this thing. I recommend a cold day because there were no lines.
Bring diapers.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Cosmetic joke

Ricky D. called us over the weekend, what a sweetie. For some reason, I thought of a joke for him. Here you go (makeup is his industry, of course).
This stuff covers so well, it'll even take care of a five-o'clock shadow. As a matter of fact, so many fairies use it, we call it the make-a-wish foundation.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Coco Tuesday

Coco isn't quite as thoughtful when he gets upset.
Here's the result of one of his outbursts.
I had been cutting up movie rental coupons with his scissors, something he didn't approve of. (Really, he's just generally upset because things aren't moving at his pace right now and he doesn't have any space. Guests.)
So he took the scissors and closed the door behind himself in his room.
The result: Madge's allowance got a bit scrambled.

Madge Monday


Sometimes, she surprises me even more than usual. What a mature thing to do.

Or, let me rephrase that. She did something I, in my infantile pettiness, would never have thought, no, never think, of doing.

When I came out of the shower the other day, I saw this note. It says,

Don't yell at m while your family are here. You emberess me daddy. - Madeleine

It makes me all choked up just thinking about it again. And the weird thing (to me) is, I wasn't even raising my voice. But at least now I know that she takes almost all forms of disapproval or chastisement as yelling.

Something to consider.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

a little quiz

Sorry I've been delinquent.
But here's a beaty of a line I read recently. Feel free to guess where. Guess right and I'll write you a poem (you supply the topic). (And using Google or a similar search engine doesn't count.)

An envious heart makes a treacherous ear.

Cool, hunh? "Ear" is in "h(ear)t" already. "Envious" and "treacherous" are trisyllabic and end in the same way. Oh, yes, and it makes sense.
Mental note: learn to do similar things with words. By Thursday.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Friday Johnson Fable

No. 4 (Saturday, 31 March 1750)

“[A]lmost all fictions of the last age will vanish, if you deprive them of a hermit and a wood, a battle and a shipwreck.”

A Shipwreck came upon a Wood and said, “I feel pointless without my Battle. Could you direct me toward a fiction?”
The Wood responded, “I’m not much better off than you since I’ve lost my Hermit. All I can think of now is solid fact.”
Said the Shipwreck, “You don’t suppose your Hermit ran off with my Battle?”
“I have heard him talk of ‘wrestling with demons.’ Does that sound like your Battle?”
“Not like the Battle I’ve come to know and love, but it seems I don’t know my Battle like I thought I did.”
“Where might they have gone?”
“I don’t know, but they’ve probably made a wonderful life for themselves,” said the Shipwreck, tearing up. “I’ve always felt like I couldn’t really satisfy my Battle.””And I’ve always been trying to tell my Hermit that he shouldn’t worry about being enough for me. I might be a vast, impenetrable Wood, but he is near and dear to me.”
“You know what?” said the Shipwreck, wiping its eyes. “I think we’re making our own fictions right now.””Yeah,” said the Wood. “Buck up, we’ll be all right on our own.”

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Happy, happy Kafka

I've opened "The Great Wall of China" in the aphorisms. What a giddy guy:

To grasp the happiness, that the ground, on which you stand, cannot be larger, than the two feet that cover it.


There is a goal, but no path; what we call path, is hesitation.

There is no having, only being, a being desirous of last breath, of suffocation.

I bet he loved knock-knock jokes.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Coco Tuesday

Coco is outdoing himself trying to be a good host. The kids’ Granny, Tante Tina, and two oldest cousins are here on a visit from Germany (and I've already developed my first stress-zit, but this isn't about me). It seems a revelation to him that older kids might enjoy his toys as well. Well, that’s not quite true. Madge does, and so do some of her friends, but this is a new experience for him. It’s cute. Though it seems the auntie and the grandmother are still figuring out how girl-children work, so I sense difficulties arising on that front.
Coco, though, dragged me from the dinner table this evening so I could read to him, and he promptly fell asleep, he’s been so overwhelmed by the excitement.
No I just need to figure out how to keep him from telling his guests how every scene in every movie turns out. I guess we need to rent stuff he hasn’t seen yet.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Madge Monday

Many things happen in Spring, most of which I forget about every year. One such thing is that it gets incredibly difficult to spot my own kids on the playground. First of all, tons of kids who don't show up in colder weather suddenly appear. (I don't know if it's the parents, the kids, or a mixture of the two that keeps them homebound.) Second, I've spent about four months getting used to seeing them in their winter coats. My eyes scan the playground for a pink jacket and a red one. Easy enough. But now all coats and bets are off, and I'm standing on benches, craning my puffy neck for my little chicks.
Another few weeks of this, and they'll be the only kids on the playground with blue hair. Or orange, but I've always thought blue hair is kind of cool.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Timely judgment

More like me, these lines from Alexander Pope (which seem out of place in "The Rape of the Lock" - as yet unfinished reading for me, but there you go):

Mean while, declining from the noon of day,
The sun obliquely shoots his burning ray;
The hungry Judges soon the sentence sign,
And wretches hang that Jury-men may dine;

not your usual facetiae fare

On my way to my Sunday job, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, the NYTimes Book Review. It allows me to superficially keep up with new books without frequenting bookstores, where I am forced, by the nature of the company I keep, to set up shop in the children’s section. I think it’s the former grad student in me that feel the need to stay somewhat current with new publications I never intend to read.
One such book is “Radicals For Capitalism,” which, as I gather, is a history of the American Libertarian movement. The reviewer gave a brief overview of the topic and pointed out that Greenspan was a follower of Ayn Rand (who must really detest the “libertarian paternalism” label). He also noted that Greenspan helped shape the laissez-faire elements of the American economy.
This struck me as odd, because, in my superficial acquaintance with the man and his utterances, I’ve come away with the impression that all he has to do is say something, and the market responds. (Even now that he’s not the Chairman of the Federal Reserve anymore.)
Then I remembered that Bernanke made the mistake of opening his mouth too often in “casual” situations, while Greenspan seemed to handle reticence better.
And I realized that Greenspan knows that his utterances are commodities in themselves, which is why he charges $150,000 for a speaking engagement.

Here are some quotes from the
printed review (note that the capitalist powerhouse, Austria, gave birth to the economists who hatched the idea):

Libertarianism has its roots in the writings of a pair of major 20th-century Austrian economists, Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek. Both opposed economic planning and argued that only the forces of supply and demand could allocate resources fairly and efficiently. If an item becomes scarce, its price will rise, ensuring that people who place the highest value on it — those who can use it most productively — will be able to get it. To this coolly economic argument, Rand and other writers added a moral one: laissez-faire capitalism equaled freedom.

[T]o Rand and her followers, collectivism was the single greatest problem facing the country. As they saw it, government programs forced citizens to comply with goals they often did not share while stifling the creative energy of individuals and even laying the groundwork for totalitarianism.

What Rand and her followers hadn’t anticipated, I guess, is that government programs can also be traded as commodities.

(Papa/Opa: feel free to comment)

The book, in case you're iterested, is:
RADICALS FOR CAPITALISM A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. By Brian Doherty. 741 pp. Public Affairs. $35.